Every day, drivers are operating their automobiles while distracted. If they are pulled over, they run the risk of getting a fine, points on their license, and, in some states, being sent to jail. For those that operate vehicles that require a commercial driver license (CDL), such as a truck, the laws and restrictions are even more strict, and the penalties are harsher. Truckers face penalties such as fines in the thousands of dollars, the suspension of their license, points on their license, and possible jail time. Fortunately, Bluetooth headsets and adapters are allowed in certain states.
The Definition of Distracted Driving
Different States have different definitions; however, they all fall into one of ten definitions.
Personal, Internal, External Distractions
States that use this definition use personal to describe personal distractions, such as drunkenness, fatigue, grooming, and texting while driving. Internal distractions are anything that is within the vehicle that is a distraction, such as passengers, objects or animals. External distractions, or anything outside the vehicle, include bad weather, poor roads, and distracting scenery.
Visual, Manual, Cognitive, (and sometimes) Auditory and Tactile Distractions
Visual distractions take the drivers’ away from the road. Examples include texting and driving, adjusting the radio, and searching for items in your car. Manual distractions take the drivers’ hands of the wheel. Examples of these are eating, smoking, and drinking. Cognitive distractions divert your attention away from the driving environment. An example of this is having a conversation. Used by some states, an auditory distraction is listening to something that distracts you from your driving, such as listening to music. Only one state, Vermont, uses the tactile definition, which is removing one or both hands from the steering while. Examples of these distractions are similar to that of manual distractions.
Distractions from Focusing on Driving
States that use this definition say that any activity that diverts the attention of the driver from focusing on driving qualifies as the driver being distracted. Examples include texting and driving, handling a cellphone, adjusting a seat belt, paying attention to children or pets, searching the car for an item while driving, or driving while experiencing intense emotions.
Distractions from the Road
States that use this definition say that any type of action that diverts the driver’s attention away from the road qualifies as distracting driving. Examples including drinking, grooming, and reading maps, as well as cellphone usage.
States that use this definition use certain criterion to determine distracted driving. In general, a driver is distracted if anything causes human inattention, such as any distraction or cell phone use. Other broad definitions include:
- Operating a motor vehicle while engaged in any activity that takes the driver’s attention away from driving
- Operating a vehicle without giving your full attention to its operation
- Anything that takes the driver’s hands off the wheel and their eyes off the road
Focus and Control
States that use this definition say that anything that diverts a driver’s focus from the road or their control over their vehicle is a distraction. Examples include unsafely interacting with passengers, eating, grooming, adjusting in-car radios, driving with stress, daydreaming, and thinking about personal issues.
Finally, states that use this definition say that anything that keeps drivers from controlling their vehicle to their fullest extent qualifies as a distraction. Examples include using a handheld device, driving with an obstructed view, or driving while mentally distracted.
Ways to Avoid Distracted Driving
Each state Department of Transportation (DOT) issues guidelines on how to avoid being distracted. The guidelines that are in common with most of these methods are turning off electronic devices, not texting while driving, avoiding multitasking, avoiding eating and drinking, using a smartphone app to block incoming texts or calls, avoiding grooming, pulling over when a call is required, and avoiding driving while fatigued.
States without these laws
There are two states, South Carolina and South Dakota, that have the least strict distracting driving laws. These two states show why stricter distracted driving laws are needed.
In South Carolina, more fatalities are experienced per every hundred million miles than any other state. This is because the fines for texting while driving are low, and because the laws on the books may be ultimately unenforceable.
South Dakota’s motorist fatalities have increased year-over-year as a result of car accidents. Cell phone use is usually the cause of these accidents. Distractions other than texting while driving are also permitted.
Multiple states have hands-free laws, but they vary from state-to-state. Some states won’t even allow you to use a hands-free device while driving.
At least 38 states completely ban handheld devices for CDL drivers. This means hands-free is the way to go in most states. Nearly all states have determined that texting while driving is the most dangerous distraction that is on the road, so they ban texting while driving.
The penalties for CDL drivers who break distracted driving laws are harsh. Alaska’s laws are arguably the harshest, with the requirement that the CDL driver must pay a fine of up to $2,750 and having their CDL credential taken away after two or more offenses. But Alaska’s law also states that the employer of the CDL driver can be fined up to $11,000.
California’s law is also harsh. It bans CDL holders from driving for 60 days after the second violation, 120 days after the third violation, adds one point on the CDL, and can also fine the driver up to $2,750.
The usual penalties for CDL drivers found in violation of distracted driving laws include:
- Loss of CDL privileges
- Fine of up to $2,750.
- A ban from driving after the second violation within a certain time period.
- Disqualification of CDL credentials
- Suspension of CDL credentials.
- Points added to the CDL
- Charged with a misdemeanor offense
- Jail time
In at least three states, distracted driving is a primary offense. This means that, if your only violation is distracted driving, you can still be pulled over and given a ticket. Very few states specifically list distracted driving as a secondary offense, which means that you must be pulled over in connection with some other offense. All in all, CDL drivers face harsh penalties on the road if they are caught using handheld devices.
Custom Bluetooth Adapters are the Right Alternative
Regular Bluetooth receiver adapters will connect to headsets, but the signal may be weird and phone calls may be dropped. This will cause you to reach for your phone to redial, and then you will be in violation of state laws.
Custom Bluetooth adapters will avoid this problem entirely due to its call clarity and wind noise reduction. Plus, custom Bluetooth adapters are fully adjustable, so you won’t have to worry about searching your car for the dropped headset – another violation of state laws.
States have determined that he secret to a safe drive for passengers and drivers alike is not to use handheld devices. They also have steep penalties for CDL drivers who do not use hands-free devices. Keep yourself, your passengers, and other drivers safe on the road by being less distracted and using Bluetooth today.
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